Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Heeding Barbie's Sage Advice

[From time to time I blog for The Exponet ( Here's the one I did last night.]

So I have issues with iPhones. My husband will tell you it’s because I’m a techno-phobic Luddite. Which is true–but isn’t why I resist getting on the iPhone/Blackberry bandwagon. Let me illustrate.

This spring some girlfriends and I went to NYC. One afternoon we are all on the boat to Ellis Island and Sande and I are having view-gasms at the sight of the Statue of Liberty. The Lady is just gorgeous. We turn to share our emotion with our companions…to find them texting away or reading Facebookor whatever, totally oblivious to the 150 ft goddess towering above us.
“Excuse me ladies,” I say, “but to quote a line from Barbie’s Princess and the Pauper, ‘Be present, be pleasant, and be proud.’” I clearly say it louder than I’d intended because on the next row of benches two men turn around and one asks me to repeat the quote as his boyfriend whips out his electronic gadget and types it in: “’Be present….be pleasant…be proud.’ Barbie you say? Jonathan, we need to remember that.”

The phrase, the first part at least, reflects a real struggle in my life. Frequently I am not where I am supposed to be. Physically I am at church, or a meeting, or the dinner table with my kids, but mentally I am elsewhere, often aided and abetted by an electronic device. While the kids chatter about their day I am straining to listen to “All Things Considered” on NPR. I’m ashamed to admit how often I talk on the phone to my girlfriends or sister when I have a real live child of mine near me who will never be exactly that age again.

My kids used to cringe when they saw me bring out my camera because they know I disappear behind the lens. I get so obsessed with capturing a moment that I cease to be part of it; with my camera I am a historian not a participant. It’s been a real challenge but over time I’ve learned that if I want to really remember an event, from the inside out, I have to leave my camera behind. So some family times that are most dear to me are never recorded. But I remember them in a way I couldn’t have if I hadn’t been truly present.

If I get this distracted by the radio, a camera, and a simple cell phone, I’m terrified what an iPhone would do to me. I’d be the person in a movie theater, missing half the show because I’d recognize a face and have to IMDB the actor to figure out where else I’d seen them. Many times while out to dinner with my husband, I’ll make him look something up for me on his phone—what is Ben Kingsley’s real name (Krishna Bhanji) ? Who was the prostitute in The Brother’s Karamozov(Grushenka)?

Last weekend was our stake conference. I attended the Saturday night session but didn’t hear much of it. I was too busy getting text messages from friends. I felt like I was in junior high again, passing notes, making jokes about the speaker, wondering where we should go eat after, explaining why we were late, etc. And as much as I hated myself for it, and even though it takes me forever to pluck out a message (I can’t even do that predictive thing), I could not stop. I could not be present. Or pleasant. I was not proud. The next day I left my phone in the car. The kids were distracting, and some of the talks were boring. But I was there, body and mind.

So I struggle. I’m a social creature. I want to share my thoughts instantaneously with my people. I want to be in the know. But I also want the people who are with me to know I am trying to be there for them, physically and emotionally. So I resist getting a frickin iPhone. I want to be present. Some people can do both. I can’t.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Magnum Al P.I.

Last week Emily CC tagged me to do the following:
1. Go to your documents/pictures
2. Go to your 6th file
3. Go to your 6th picture
4. Post it, and blog about it
5. Tag 6 people to do the same
6. Name your picture

So I went into my files and the sixth folder only had two pictures in it. I went to the next folder. It had four. So I am ignoring the directions and posting some of the pictures I have been working on this last week.

Many of you know our good friends Lindy and Al. They are like grandparents to our kids, godparents to us. Just dear, dear people. Al even volunteered to pay for Bea's wedding (she is his favorite, and I suspect he thinks we will give her a hobo reception in the gym with hoop-a-flage and cheap cake unless he intervenes).

Al is what we LDS call a "dry Mormon," meaning he attends church, does all the Mormony things us Mormons do, except he has never been baptized (ie just add water). So imagine our shock and delight when last week I get a FRANTIC call from Linda telling me Al is joining the church. Screams, tears, hyperventilating ensued.

I immediately went into party planning mode and decided to do a slideshow for Al's baptism. I know baptism slideshows are a bit ridiculous ("let's take a 20 minute pictoral review of your loooong 8 years accompanied by that fat Hawaiian singing the Rainbow song..."), but I LOVE them. I love pictures. I love any excuse to go thru my millions of folders and cull the best ones and juxtapose them with the right pictures.

I told Linda my plan. She told Al. And he vetoed it. He hates to be the center of attention. Initially Linda and the missionaries were the only people invited to attend. But just as I knew Al would relent and invite his close friends to attend, I also knew he'd love MY slideshow so I immediately got to work. I soon realized that Linda had no pictures of young Al. Not a one. This is a problem in a slideshow where you are attempting to capture the scope of a life. But I would not be daunted. Enter my best friend, photoshop.

I was up until 1am several nites last week googling, cutting, pasting, and generally Forrest Gumping Al's face into a childhood and young adult life he never knew. Here are my favorites:
Everyone over a certain age has one of these pony pictures. Al's sister actually thought this one was real.
Ah, meeting the President. I used a newsprint finish to get the grainy look.
How fun to imagine a Woodstock moment. I think I need one of these.
"You can tell by the way I use my walk I'm a woman's man, no time to talk..."

I don't know about you, but I LOVE me some Magnum. My sister was a huge fan and loved to go to the USC volleyball games with her boyfriend Bill because Tom Selleck's kid was on the team and he was usually there. One time Ange was waiting outside the men's room for Bill and out comes Tom Selleck. A minute later Bill emerges and says to my sister, "Well, they don't call him 'magnum' for nothing."

Although I am a PC girl, I must say that Dave's imovie program made putting the pictures and music together to simple and so much more effective than traditional means.

The baptism was lovely, very moving event. After we went to their house for a celebration. We played the slideshow and it was a huge hit. We laughed, we cried, two thumbs up. I'm still on a high. Maybe I should ride the wave and get started on Millie's slideshow. She turns 8 in December which means I only have 7 months left.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Proud Moment in Hobo Parenting

Last Friday at the park I sat chatting with friends as Bea ran around playing. Periodically I glanced up and made sure I knew where she was. Imagine my pride when I see her walk over to a tree, pull up her dress, take off her undies, squat, pee, stand up, take off her shoe and drain the urine out of it, put it back on along with her undies and run off again.

I know some of the mommies were horrified at my daughter's vagabond behavior. But I could not have more delighted. So she smelled like a nursing home. So what. I had some quality time with my friends as my 3 year old solved her own problems. Isn't that what life is all about?